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J Exp Biol. 2001 Dec;204(Pt 24):4311-20.

Selection for high voluntary wheel-running increases speed and intermittency in house mice (Mus domesticus).

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Department of Zoology, 430 Lincoln Drive, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


In nature, many animals use intermittent rather than continuous locomotion. In laboratory studies, intermittent exercise regimens have been shown to increase endurance compared with continuous exercise. We hypothesized that increased intermittency has evolved in lines of house mice (Mus domesticus) that have been selectively bred for high voluntary wheel-running (wheel diameter 1.12 m) activity. After 23 generations, female mice from four replicate selection lines ran 2.7 times more revolutions per day than individuals from four random-bred control lines. To measure instantaneous running speeds and to quantify intermittency, we videotaped mice (N=41) during a 5-min period of peak activity on night 6 of a 6-day exposure to wheels. Compared with controls (20 revs min(-1) while actually running), selection-line females (41 revs min(-1)) ran significantly faster. These instantaneous speeds closely matched the computer-recorded speeds over the same 5-min period. Selection-line females also ran more intermittently, with shorter (10.0 s bout(-1)) and more frequent (7.8 bouts min(-1)) bouts than controls (16.8 s bout(-1), 3.4 bouts min(-1)). Inter-bout pauses were also significantly shorter in selection-line (2.7 s) than in control-line (7.4 s) females. We hypothesize that intermittency of locomotion is a key feature allowing the increased wheel-running performance at high running speeds in selection-line mice.

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